News for the Alumni and Friends of the (former) Space Physics and Astronomy Department

Volume 2, Number 1

October, 2000

Editor: Patricia Reiff (

1. General news:

The merger of the former Space Physics and Astronomy Department and Physics was completed July 1, 2000. There was the expected turbulence of change, but most things have now settled down. All graduate requirements have now changed to match the requirements of Physics (e.g., no "Part 1 oral exam". No qualifiers at all. Different set of (4) required courses, and only 8 courses total required for Ph.D.). Present students have their choice as to which rules to graduate under. Barry Dunning is doing a great job as the Chair of the combined Department of Physics and Astronomy; Dick Wolf is the Associate Chair for SP&A. New web page:

We have courses now listed both as PHYS and ASTR. We have new degrees: both a BA *and* a BS in Physics and a BA and BS in Astronomy (the BS degrees are the former BA degrees, and the BA degrees are less research-intensive to allow double-majors and educators). We also have new Professional Masters degrees: a "Master of Space Science" (good for Air Force students who want a one-year, no research masters degree), a "Master of Astronomy" for students who don't want to pursue a PhD, and a "Master of Science Teaching" for teachers and planetarium professionals. If you know of someone who might be interested in these degrees, let us know.

The (new) Department is sponsoring the Texas Section of the APS meeting this weekend here at Rice, and we are expecting over 320 physicists and educators. For more info check out . Steve Baker and Umbe are doing a terrific job of organizing the program and arrangements.

We have very little staff left here in the HBH building. Umbe is the only fulltime P&A staff member to remain here, and her new title is "RSI Administrator". Norma still works here Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. Maria is the new Departmental Coordinator of P&A (and has moved to Herzstein Hall, the former Physics Building). Wayne (now Senior Administrator) has moved his office to Herzstein, as has Angela, who is the new Purchasing Clerk. Rose Berridge is the Administrator. Sylvia is the new Graduate Coordinator, and Kelly the undergrad coordinator. Come and visit the Department when you're in town!

We have created a new Rice Space Institute, which has its mission to foster interdisciplinary space research. Its mission and membership far outstrip the former SPAC department, with now over 70 Rice faculty, students, and staff from 14 departments and nearly every School self-identifying with RSI. For more info, see our web page .

2. Faculty news:

We are pleased to report that Frank Toffoletto won the "computational space physics" position last year, over tough competition. Congrats to Frank!

Tom Hill received a well-deserved promotion to Full Professor this year.

Patrick Hartigan received his promotion to Associate Professor with Tenure.

(Anthony received his promotion to Associate Professor with Tenure last year).

John Freeman and Curt Michel both retired as of July 1, 2000, but we are still pleased to have them around and performing research.

Bob O'Dell also retired as of July 1, and is now at Vanderbilt, to be closer to his family. Thanks to all three for their long and distinguished service to SPAC and to RICE!

Finally, Gary Morris won last year's competition for Instructor, and we are all delighted to have him back on campus. Our remote sensing group is really growing, with Gary and Erzsebet Merenyi (new Provost Gene Levy's Significant Other, who is a faculty fellow in ECE) joining the RSI.

3. Alumni news:

SPAC Alum Dave Young took a tenured faculty position at Michigan. He is officially Professor, Atm, Oceanic and Space Sciences Department, school of Engineering. He of course is hip-deep in Cassini, and we wish that mission well. His new email is

Dave Talent just took a new position as Chief of the CSOC Science Advocacy Office (yes, he heard about the job opening through SPAC News!). Here's how to reach him:


Address: David L. Talent

Chief, CSOC Science Advocacy Office


595 Gemini, M/C L1A

Houston, TX 77058

Phone: (281)-853-3079

Tony Crider took a teaching job at American University. He moved from Bowie to be closer to work. His new info is:

Anthony Crider

10409 Lorain Ave.

Silver Spring, MD 20901


202-885-3479 (his work)

301-286-9563 (Dana's work)

LET ME KNOW if you move, have exciting news (honors, awards, promotions, etc.), cool pictures, etc., that you'd like to share. I'll send 'em out to the list. Also, we hope to have a URL directory of SPAC alumni, so if you are willing to have us publish your web site, send it on to me or to Umbe. We have many missing SPAC alumni - if you run into someone associated with the (former) department, ask them if they've gotten their latest issue of the SPAC news. If they haven't, please find out their email address and let us know how to reach them. In a future issue will send out a list of "missing folks". We want to keep in touch with faculty, staff, and students.

4. Oncampus Observatory News...

The Board of Trustees has approved the plans for the construction of the Oncampus Observatory, presently planned to be part of the field house complex in the playing fields West of Space Science building. The University is providing "bricks and mortar", and we are working to raise money for the computerized scopes. We have $12,000 already in the fund (thanks to all who have so generously donated!), but we need another $15,000 or so for a first-class scope, and more for other ancillary equipment, computers, etc. This is a great way to respond to the "Rice: the Next Century" request for funds you have probably already received. Just put on your check (or your form) that you'd like your donation to go to the Oncampus Observatory, Fund G81732 Org 429-000). The observatory committee is chaired by Reggie Dufour, with Patrick Hartigan and I as additional members. Dave Talent has agreed to serve as Alumni Rep to the committee, to ensure that your donations are spent in the best possible way.

Another way you can donate to the University is to designate your gift to the Rice Space Institute. Just mark your check "Rice Space Institute Gifts" and send to Umbe, MS 108. If you have a preferred use of the gift, let us know.

Finally, the Dessler Award has reached "critical mass" and is now an endowed fund. But it's always terrific to have more in the pipeline, to pay for an award to the best SPA undergrad. (Note: this distinction will still be noted despite the departmental merger).

5. Jobs, jobs, jobs....

The new "Physics and Astronomy Department" has *five* faculty openings this year, one in observational astronomy, one in experimental high-energy astrophysics, one in biophysics, one in high-energy physics (Bonner lab), and another Instructor position. Check out the new P&A Departmental page... for more info.

The President of USRA is open... If you are interested in this exciting position check with their head hunters, or with SPAC alum David Cummings . Web site for the job search is

Lots of other positions open in Space Physics and Astronomy around the country! Despite all the gloom prophets, it's still an exciting field to be a part of. Cassini is on the way, IMAGE is giving fabulous views of the plasmasphere and ring current (we got a great colloquium from Bill Sandel - ), and Hubble is still amazing us all with wonderful images.

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last modified: October 26, 2000